High blood pressure and stroke: reduce your risk

People from African and African Caribbean communities are more at risk of high blood pressure and stroke than the general population. Find out how to reduce your risk.

Blood pressure is the force that blood exerts on the walls of your arteries. If your blood pressure is high (hypertension), it puts you at greater risk of a strokeheart attack and kidney problems. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so you can only find out whether you have it if you’re checked by a doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Stroke

A stroke is a “brain attack”. It happens when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted. This is often caused by a narrowing of blood vessels, which occurs due to a build-up of fatty material on the artery walls (atherosclerosis) or by blood clotting. Older people and those with high blood pressure, uneven heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), high cholesterol and diabetes also have a higher risk of stroke.

Professor Graham MacGregor of the Blood Pressure Association says, “It’s not fully understood why African Caribbean people are likely to have high blood pressure. However, we know that a healthy diet, exercise and awareness can make a vital difference to preventing early death from stroke, heart attack or heart disease.”

You can take steps to reduce your risk of high blood pressure (see below). They will also help lower blood pressure if it is already high, and reduce your risk of having a stroke.

Stop smoking

Smoking doubles your risk of a stroke because it causes the arteries to become “furry” and makes the blood more likely to develop clots. Read about getting help to stop smoking.

Drink sensibly

Drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure. If you keep your alcohol intake within the healthy guidelines, the occasional drink will not increase blood pressure or stroke risk.

Recommended limits are:

  • two to three units a day for women
  • three to four units a day for men